In the absence of a sports section I'll post my belated gloat here, which, as someone with a deep interest in and sympathy for Russia, I hope you'll allow me. This day last week, at Windsor Park in Belfast, my national football team, from a tiny little speck on the world's map called Northern Ireland, beat the largest country in the world 1-0. That's Northern Ireland (populated by 1.6 million people, covering an area of 13,000 odd square kilometres, ranked 109 by FIFA) 1 Russia (with a population of 144,000,000, spanning over 17,000,000 square km and ranked 19th by FIFA) 0. What made this all the sweeter was that the Russian team's manager, Fabio Capello, ahead of the previous fixture in Moscow, had declined to select another striker, when injuries had reduced his squad, explaining that it was "only Northern Ireland" Russia was playing. Last Thursday morning the Belfast Telegraph's front-page headline read "Only Northern Ireland 1-0 Russia". Contrary to the common stereotypes about Russian football fans, those I met in Belfast last Wednesday evening were gracious about their defeat (even the ones with curious views about their national flag and some of their fellow countrymen), just as they'd been gracious in victory almost a year ago in Moscow. Still, in a spirit of some triumphalism and channeling the words of a famous Norwegian football commentator: Ivan Grozny, Alexander Pushkin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Marshall Zhukov, Leo Tolstoy, Lenin - we have beaten them all, we have beaten them all - Vladimir Putin, can you hear me Vladimir Putin? Your boys took a hell of a beating!